Scientists identify new threat to ozone layer


PARIS: Worried scientists said on Sunday (Monday in Manila) they had found four new ozone-destroying gases in the atmosphere, most likely put there by humans in the last 50-odd years despite a ban on these dangerous compounds.

It is the first time since the 1990s that new substances damaging to Earth’s stratospheric shield have been found, and others may be out there, they said.

“Our research has shown four gases that were not around in the atmosphere at all until the 1960s, which suggests they are man-made,” the team from Europe and Australia wrote in the journal Nature Geoscience.

They analyzed unpolluted air samples collected in Tasmania between 1978 and 2012, and from deep, compacted snow in Greenland.

“The identification of these four new gases is very worrying as they will contribute to the destruction of the ozone layer,” added a statement from the team.

“We don’t know where the new gases are being emitted from, and this should be investigated.”

Three of the gases are chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)—a group, which includes chemicals traditionally found in air-conditioning, refrigerators and aerosol spray cans but banned under the Montreal Protocol.

The fourth is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC), part of a closely related group of compounds, which replaced CFCs but are being phased out.

More than 74,000 tons of the four newly identified gases had accumulated in the atmosphere by 2012, said the team.

This is very small compared with peak emissions of CFCs in the 1980s of more than a million tonnes per year.

“However, the reported emissions are clearly contrary to the intentions behind the Montreal Protocol, and raise questions about the sources of these gases,” the team wrote.

Two of the gases, one CFC and the HCFC, are still accumulating.

Previously, seven types of CFC and six of HCFC were known to contribute to ozone destruction.

CFCs, the main cause of the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica, are man-made organic compounds made of carbon, chlorine and fluorine.



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